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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Washington State Cougars

The Sun Devils will travel up north to face a team that gave them a first half scare last year in Tempe.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the remaining weeks separating us from the return of Sun Devil football, House of Sparky is taking a week-by-week look at the opponents ASU will face this season. So far we've covered ASU's non-conference schedule as well as their first five Pac-12 opponents of the year. After an ESPN-televised Thursday night showdown at Sun Devil Stadium against Oregon, the Sun Devils will venture up to Pullman to face Washington State.

Opponent Primer Schedule:

July 8 - Texas A&M - Read

July 13 - Cal Poly - Read

July 15 - New Mexico - Read

July 20 - USC - Read

July 22 - UCLA - Read

July 27 - Colorado - Read

July 29 - Utah - Read

August 3 - Oregon - Read

August 6 - Washington State

August 10 - Washington

August 12 - Arizona

August 17 - California

Washington State's 2014 Season

After making its first bowl since 2003 in the 2013 campaign, Washington State took a step back last season. The Cougars finished at 3-9 (2-7 Pac-12), and only had one victory inside the friendly confines of Martin Stadium.

The year got off to a disastrous start when Rutgers flew across the country on opening night and upset Mike Leach's team in Seattle. One week later, their usually high-octane offense was stymied at Nevada in a 24-13 defeat.

The Cougars were squarely behind the eight ball after that 0-2 start, but they were at least competitive the rest of the way.

They went 2-2 over their next four games with the two losses coming by one possession against Oregon and California. The meeting with the Golden Bears was one of the most entertaining games in the entire country last season, as quarterback Connor Halliday threw for over 700 yards and six touchdowns in a 60-59 defeat.

That heartbreaking loss seemed to stick with Washington State as it lost five of its last six, but the Cougars did put a fight in Tempe against Arizona State. They finished the game with a 292 yard edge over the Sun Devils, and at one point in the second quarter led 21-7. A barrage of turnovers would be their undoing, however, and the maroon and gold eventually cruised to a 52-31 victory.

Key Losses

QB Connor Halliday

Leach's gunslinger is gone after throwing for 32 touchdowns and more than 3,500 yards in just nine games last year. He broke his leg in a loss to USC and that opened the door for his successor, Luke Falk. The freshman had five touchdowns in his first career start at Oregon State and then threw for 600 yards in his next game against Arizona State.

WR Vince Mayle

In an air raid offense like the one Washington State runs, you need a bevy of reliable receivers that can be counted on every play. Mayle was this guy. He wasn't always a touchdown threat since opponents would key in on him in the red zone, but his 106 receptions for 1,483 yards led the team by far.

Key Returners

LB Kache Palacio

The 6-foot-2, 261-pound rush linebacker is back for his senior season on the Palouse. Palacio led the team in sacks last year and is this team's most intimidating player on defense.

RB Jamal Morrow

The Cougars are certainly not known for their running game, but that should change (at least a little) in 2015. Morrow led the team on the ground last season as a freshman, and he should get fed much more often with one of the top offensive lines in the conference in front of him.

Reasons for ASU optimism

While there is enough potential for this Washington State roster to get back to a bowl game, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. The defense is going to struggle, and Mike Bercovici should be able to take advantage of a weak secondary.

Reasons for ASU pessimism

The term trap game was used a lot prior to last season's loss at Oregon State, and this game could take on the same theme. Whether the Sun Devils are flying high after a win against Oregon or reeling after a tough loss, the possibility to overlook the Cougars on the road is a real one. Crazy things can happen up in Pullman, and coach Todd Graham will need to have his team focused on taking care of business no matter what the situation is.